The Supreme Court released a decision today cancelling Sun Wave’s ‘Certificate of Pending Litigation’ (CPL) against the City’s title to Watson Island (other than Lot 4, to which Sun Wave still holds good title), which had effectively blocked the sale of the land to Watco.
The decision can be found here: courts.gov.bc.ca/jdb-txt/SC/ … SC1908.htm
The short version is that the Court accepted that the registration of the CPL was causing the City hardship. A particularly persuasive factor seemed to be that there are serious environmental contamination risks on the property associated with decaying chemical containers, including a serious spill of sulphuric acid last June which will cost about $80K to clean up. The clincher is that Watco has expressed willingness to fund the immediate clean-up of the site but only “if the lingering issues related to ownership are dealt with”.
There is also lengthy analysis by the Court of the law pertaining to tax sales in the province. The short version is that the law favours finality in tax sales, even if there have been procedural irregularities, as Sun Wave has argued was the case here. There are some statutory exceptions to finality but Sun Wave did not argue that they applied here, and the Court did not find in their favour on those points.
The cancellation of the CPL is no doubt good news for the citizens of this place, since there now appears to be nothing remaining that can block the sale of the land to Watco for $5 million and the return of the land to City’s much diminished tax base. The sale will also relieve the City of some serious environmental headaches. The Court also notes that since September 2009 the City has accumulated a deficit of “well in excess of $1million” holding onto the lands.
However, before letting off fireworks and engaging in other celebratory activites citizens, and particularly beleagured taxpayers, should take note of the following two statements in the Court’s decisions, which I’ll quote in full:
 Damages are sought, however, and could be awarded in this action.
 While I appreciate that the power to cancel a CPL should be exercised with very great caution when a party is seeking specific performance, I am satisfied here that damages will provide adequate compensation to Sun Wave.
There is also the matter of a separate claim against the City relating not to the land but “… regarding equipment in which Sun Wave claims that Prince Rupert has wrongly retained and converted certain production equipment on the Lands and seeks declaratory relief and damages”.
So the CPL is cancelled but the damages claims against the City proceed on.
Hopefully our civic leaders will find themselves able to provide more fulsome information about this recent development after many months of near total silence, and the local media likewise, particularly now that they seem to have gotten to the bottom of the wolf/dog issue and other matters of pressing concern.